Monday, September 18, 2017

Night at the Nerdlesque

This weekend was the 5th Annual Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival. I've been to all but one of these nerdy affairs, covering them for Chicagoist and now Third Coast Review. I can usually make it to at least a night or two, and this year attended Thursday and Saturday nights. One thing I've missed in years past (mostly due to expiring parking or just a long drive home ahead of me) were the nerd burlesque shows that the festival always features. 

Up til this year, the only true live burlesque I'd seen was a special show at the bar I frequented back in Socorro, NM. It was a great time, but I think I got even more out of this. 

For one thing, back then, I was a bit younger and a bit less likely to express all of who I am. For another, this is nerdlesque. Nerds are my people and I am theirs. And's sexy dancing Voldemort. How bizarre/amusing/unusual is that?

But it's more than what's at face value, and so was the "straight up" burlesque show I saw earlier. 
The crazy thing to me in both cases was how good it made ME feel about ME. Burlesque is such a positive experience, or at least has been for me. Nerdlesque was doubly so, because it allows you to laugh at yourself while also navigating a part of yourself that can be harder to let out or address. 

I love the talent and openness involved, and I love that it's the art of the tease. 
You won't get to see everything, and that's ok. It's about leaving the desire for more. Talented burlesque performers can hold an audience's attention simply by way of confidence. They can make being Voldemort alluring, somehow. They're not necessarily Victoria's Secret Angels or Greek Gods of men, but they don't have to be, because what they show you, what burlesque shows you, is that sexy is from within. 

Sexy is about individualism, and about feeling it yourself and then projecting it out there. It's about you as a person and how you interact with other people. And the best kind of sexy is the kind that makes other people feel like they could be sexy too. 
That's what I learned at the nerdlesque show. 

So I'm passing it on to you. 
Confident is sexy. Unique is sexy. YOU are sexy, you nerdy little thing you! Celebrate who and what you are. We all should do that more. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Stand Up

I've always had a hard time with confrontation. I think most people, at the core, do.
There were a lot of times in my life I looked back on and thought "Man, I was a total doormat there."
I've erred in the opposite direction too, where I "stood up" for myself by making EVERYTHING an issue, which is something I still struggle with from time to time.

It's hard to know when to speak up sometimes.
It's hard to speak up even when you know you should sometimes.

I feel like there are a lot of people right now that probably feel that way in regards to the national problems we're facing, but some of the things that prompted me to blog this today are much closer to home, in my working environment.

I don't like causing division. I don't like to feel "against" anyone and I don't like stirring the pot. But the truth of the matter is that if you leave the pot to sit on its own, then things blacken and everything becomes bitter from the bottom up. You need to stir and not settle before that happens.

There's room to be understanding, to see if you're coming from a place of pride or competition or whatever, but if you can examine it long enough and realize it's not that, then you need to take action. This post is mostly about me having to deal with a work situation I didn't want to deal with and being afraid of the fallout from it, both in my personal life, with people I consider friends, and in my working life, with people that are colleagues and peers.

I have a hard time with the concept of "righteous anger" if you want to use a semi-religious term, too. I feel like being angry is wrong, and to be honest, I feel that way when I'm not the angry one too, and fail to realize there's a good reason to be angry, and there are healthy ways to be angry. There's damn toxic ones too, but there ARE reasons to express anger and ways to do it that aren't harmful.

And I'm angry. I'm angry when I am faced with conflict where there should be cooperation. I'm angry when people eschew communication, blatantly ignore others attempts at it, and fail to do anything but assert their authority. It creates a bad environment for everyone, and it makes working together harder. This is especially frustrating when it creates extra divisions, delays projects, and intimidates others, and that's what it's doing.

As far as next steps...I'm not too sure.
But one thing I want to make clear?
I'm standing up for myself now. I will not be condescended to by my peers, and I will not be scolded like a child by people who abuse their position.
I'm going to stand up.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Somewhat Unadvertised Confession

So. Yesterday. Yesterday, I took a bath. A good long soak, longer than necessary. And I looked in the mirror for a good long time. One of the traits about myself that's not so great, I'm told, is my unwillingness to look in a mirror for long.

I'm all for body acceptance, loving who you are, feeling good in your own skin and whatever other good things you can do, but I have a hard time putting it into practice. A cursory glance tells me at least I don't have spinach in my teeth and my hair isn't THE MOST crazy or whatnot, and then I'm good. If I'm doing winged eyeliner or something, I'll look more, because come on, have you ever tried evening out both sides? But other than that, I'm not great about just...looking. It makes me uncomfortable talking about it, even. Like, ugh, am I talking about looking at my whole self? That seems wrong or inappropriate to talk about. But it's me, and it's me looking at MY self. It's mine. Shouldn't I know what it's like now?

To my surprise, I didn't hate all the things. There were things I'd like to take action on, for sure, but I didn't  hate all the things. And I stood there longer. And I looked, and I thought, and I wished, for once, that I could learn to like even the things I currently hate. And to maybe, maybe rock myself out the way I really would like to. There are people much bigger and much smaller than me that have a much bigger slice of the confidence pie, and I'd like to go back and get some more. I'd like to really really feel good about me. I need to work on that.

I looked in a more metaphorical mirror lately, and unfortunately, I'm kinda seeing that picture I used as the lead. I have, it seems, fallen into a depression. There's some underlying stuff there, like work stuff, people I've lost touch with, relationship struggles...and there's some stuff that came from it that made it worse, like avoiding stuff as simple as showers and sunshine, and neglecting stuff I should be doing, which piles on the guilt, which makes it more insurmountable. I've talked to the SO about it, and I mentioned it in a more public way tonight. It's not dire, and I know depression lies, but it makes you think a lot, too.

The bad things I feel are hopelessness in some areas of my life- like I can't change the things I want to change, like trying makes it worse, like failing is a reminder of how already bad at things I was.

There's fear- that I can't change myself, that I can't change the bad interactions, and fear that comes from hurting. Fear that I'm alienating myself from people, fear that people are starting to or already did not like me, fear that I can't repair relationships with people I'd like to, or build something better with people.

There's a lack of energy and excitement for the future. I try to set goals of things to look forward to, even if they're small, because it helps me feel...better, more secure and happy. Like, for example, I am looking forward to finally getting around to seeing Rogue One. Lately though, those things get put off, a lot of the times by me, and I feel like I'm floating aimlessly. And I want to do things, but I don't.

So I'm confessing. I'm struggling. I'm not super happy. I feel a little like I lost my way and on top of that don't really feel like digging in and finding it.

I don't feel like posting this after writing it because if I do I'm admitting all this, and that seems...not great? But I'm gonna post it.

Because maybe someone else out there feels that way. In fact, I know someone else out there feels that way. And maybe we can be hope for each other, maybe even just a little.

I feel like a lump of useless, but I have to believe that that's not all I am.
And neither are you.

Home Is Where...

I'm dogsitting this weekend, a few miles away from where I actually live. I do it fairly often for some family friends, and it's a good arrangement. It helps them out, and I am close enough to not have to be super gone from the house, so I can still help and come home from dinner and do whatever else might be necessary.

As I was leaving after late dinner last night to go back to the dogsitting job for the night, I said "ok, I"m going home now."

In the car on the way home, I realized that my concept of home is pretty fluid. More fluid than I even realized. Through the years, I've had all these dreams of places I wanted to live later on down the road. A big part of me loved Chicago SO much and wanted the city life- no need for a car, more activities than you could possibly even attend, all kinds of cultures and restaurants and that amazing vibrancy. I get some of that with Chicagoist and Third Coast.

Some part of me wanted to live deep in the woods, too though. All hidden away, somewhere serene. Maybe by the water.

When I lived in a small town, I was all about knowing everyone in the shops and bar and being a part of a community the way I was. My time in Socorro was fantastic because it was so small. I knew everyone. I knew everyone's kids. I knew when they got dental surgery and who was bringing them soup and taking their kids to the zoo. I knew who I'd face in the pool tourneys on Sundays and I attended unofficial "American Gladiator reboot" viewings with friends at the bar on a slow night.

And ok, obvious statement. To no one's surprise, I want to live in New Mexico again. It stole my heart and my soul and nothing feels as good as the open expanses of the desert, the mountains greeting you every morning, the sage and juniper after the rain, and the feeling of sunshine just sitting on your shoulders, naked and intense. I want that again.

But when I look at it, and the more I explore, the more I see that one of my strengths, and the reason I love travel, is because I can find a life I want almost anywhere. I don't want to move farther north, but when I was in Minneapolis and its suburbs, I could envision the kind of path I'd carve for myself- from weekends in Excelsior on Lake Minnetonka to exploring more of the culture in Minneapolis, and hours and hours at Mia (because it's worth it, so much!)

I love Seattle, and could see myself just as easily somewhere around the sound, taking the ferry in to explore the amazing, laid back world that is Seattle. Seattle is so chill and unique. I love its seaside vibe, I love its "hip but not douchey" feel, and I love its...non city cityness.

And really? Sometimes I lust for a chance to live the IN Chicago life. Since I work for Chicago publications, most everyone I work with lives in the city limits. Different neighborhoods with different flair. I wish for the fluency and confidence with public transportation, the endless venues and concerts and things I could just be at. The chance to always be able to explore every square foot and to really be able to call it my own. I want that excitement, that energy. I want to be able to be home when I'm there sometimes instead of having to go home from there (and not just because the commute sucks.)

When I'm in Door County, I imagine this crazy tourist season and the fun I could have doing something involving it - writing about it, photographing the scenery/activity, but then in the off season, feeling isolated and cozy in a way you only can in a small place like that when winter sets in. Suddenly it's you and the real residents and a winter of solitude in a still-gorgeous place. Maybe you have to plan ahead a little more, but you make it work.

I'm not the world's most confident person, but I think I could make a home most anywhere. I don't like change, and even though I have moved cross country before, I don't think it'd be that much easier changing locale so drastically, but when it comes down to it, one thing I pride myself on is being able to change my definition of home. I feel like home is the people I love, somewhere safe I can curl up at night and come back to and a door I can close to the world when I need to, but other than that? Wherever life takes me, I feel like I can blaze a path and make it my own.

And that gives me hope.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Char Siu Bao and Trying Again

We made these yesterday. And it was arduous, lemme tell you, but we made these.
First off, it's part of our 52 weeks of cooking challenge, which I've written (and even performed) about.
Second, I hadn't even had bao at all (or dim sum) prior to this May, when my bestie and I attended her brother's 50th birthday party and we went to an awesome dim sum place in Chicago. We had a great time learning about it, eating it, and then feeling bad about how much we ate on the way home.

So when it came up on the challenges, I immediately knew I wanted to do steamed buns (bao)
I was really excited about it, but then I got to my research phase and found that a cook I really admire (whose name I will withhold here, just cuz) had said they couldn't find a successful recipe and to buy the bun stuff frozen.

I'll admit here that sometimes I'm a bit lazy. I was inclined to just take it as a cautionary tale and not even try. Which likely, in our area, as littered with stores as it is, could have ended up taking hours more, since I'd have had to hunt the depths of our grocery stores for the dough, which should be "available at any store" but around here, even with the diversity of ethnic groups, doesn't hold true.

I did more research and found a recipe I knew was legit, and we set off.

Our first batch did not work. Dough seized up. We've had a rough as hell week between leftover schedule upset from the flooding, the toilet having issues and having to be re-installed due to flooding, thrown backs, lots of work deadlines, migraines and more. It's been *real* special, in that I hate life way.

I was tempted to throw in the towel (Oh yeah, and like, 40 loads of laundry to clean towels from the flood and then again the same ones from the toilet install. Right, and it rained and stuff torrentially just recently AFTER the floods. And so.)

But we decided, sleep deprived and weary though we were, that we were just gonna try one more time. So we did.

And it still didn't look like it'd work. But after the 1.5 hour first rise, 30 minute second rise, and 45 minute final rise (and after rolling 50 teeny little balls meticulously and then flattening them out just as meticulously)...



I did not expect it and I am over the moon about it. I really thought we'd have spent something like 6 hours on it and just have to go to the store and get frozen ones and feel bad.

They were springy and cooked through and soft and warm and stuff, and it was awesome.

Couple that with an amazing char siu pork that we'd also spent hours making, some pickles I mixed up, and scallions, and we had a freaking fantastic meal at home I'd have paid good money for.

So why am I blogging at you all about this?

I have reasons. Reasons that taught me things, folks.

Because, first...we needed a win after all this random upset.
Second, because sometimes it takes longer to be lazy than it does to actually just do things the right way. And being lazy backfires, too.
Third, because have a little faith in yourself, and don't be scared to try something someone else failed, no matter who they are.
Fourth...well...putting in the time pays off. And hard work can make you happy.

I'm gonna try and take this into the working week.
And the writing life.

Happy Monday's eve, y'all.
Don't give up.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Tales from Beyond

Holy cats, people.
There's cause to celebrate in my corner of the Interwebs.
I have been trying and trying and trying to get my head above water in this new phase in my life, and mostly failing.
If I were to type one more time "I need to write here more often" even I would punch me in the face.

Here's some duh moments I'd like to share with you, my friends and associates:

1. Moving sucks, and it takes a while to figure out new digs. A while can be up to a year. I've lived with the SO for ohhhh....a tad bit over that. And every so often I'm a slow learner.

2. Long term, committed relationships are hard. I mean, they're good too, or you wouldn't think they'd be as much a phenomenon as they are, but yeah. They're really difficult. This is only compounded by family with medical issues, roommates and old houses with yards and gardens and things.

3. But I didn't know the first thing about how to make stubborn rose bushes bloom or fix a sink or paint a room or fix a sink again. Or how much it takes just to run a house week to week, from dishes to meal planning and taxes and budgets and appointments and groceries. And pets.

4. Freelance writing is...tumultuous. No matter how hard you work or how long, it's really hard to make it into a living, and even harder to ride out mergers and layoffs and freezes. One minute you're in, the next you're out. Things change fast and there's so much work you have to put in to get anything out of it. Most people I know in paid writing positions around me put in at least 5 to 7 years of unpaid or occasionally paid work at various outlets before they ever got those.  Seems the fate of the creative. Everyone wants photos and articles and stuff for free, but no one's telling a steelworker to put in their unpaid dues for 7 years and one day they'll make it. But I digress.

5. You better work, b*tch. No one is doing anything for you, and if you want to make stuff happen you're gonna have to pound pavement, send emails, and constantly find a new way of making it. And boohoo if you don't start May 1st on a Monday. May 2nd on a Tuesday or halfway between Tuesday and Wednesday is fine, just start. Not starting isn't an excuse for not starting. queen of not starting. I regret this, and wish to give up my claim to that throne.

So...where's that leave us? Why the celebration?
Well, I've come up for air. I'm learning the routine, and making space for things I should have made space for a long time ago.

Third Coast is developing and changing and I've got a front seat and a say in how that happens. I'm really excited to watch us grow and help us get our name out there.

The SO has been brought on as a writer for Third Coast officially, which is reason enough to celebrate, but we're both launching our writing ship together, and have set up a schedule we are currently completing day one of.

I feel amazing. We got up, we procrastinated only a minimum amount to go acquire coffee, and then we worked. And I really, really got shit done. While making sure house stuff like bills and utilities didn't slip away, while ensuring animals and people were fed, while scheduling stuff and helping each other out. And it was nice.

I'm confident if we can keep working together and holding each other to doing work while we're on work hours, the future will be bright. Just today I muddled through back press releases, scheduled museum and garden visits, made new contacts and did some internal housekeeping stuff for 3CR like minutes and soliciting more entries for my section. I'm updating here and searching out new things everywhere and I'm really happy with how this new schedule began.

I'm outing myself here as a way to say I'm here to work, and we're gonna make this thing happen.
Day 1's the hardest. Now to keep it going.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Here I Am Again

On my own? Going down the only road I've ever known? (I can't not start singing that when I say what I said, so...sorry?)

Anyway. Just me.
Just me at the keys again, wondering why it's always so long before I write for me. This time, I had a big push into the "guilt about not writing something that's not an article" from the American Writer's Museum opening in Chicago just two days ago. It's full of so much about writing, about process, about just doing it even though everything that falls out of your head and onto the page just seems trite or silly or wrong.

I wrote the non-upside down part on the story canvas table at the museum, and thought I wanted to develop that into something, someday. Then I thought, why not sooner than "someday."

It's a hatchling I'm watching over.

I feel like it goes with the thoughts that were running through my head the other day as I was cruising into Chicago. Everything was an electric green and in full bloom, and instead of that amazing "spring  has sprung!" feeling you get sometimes when the sun is just warm enough and the grass is all lush and the sky's impossible blue, I felt a certain sadness. I felt like I was inside but everything else was outside, away from me. Like somehow I missed all the flowers and breezes and rivers rushing with runoff.

It's only May, but it's already May. May's just on the precipice of summer. The AC units are already in the windows and many people wiser than me have already been working on their swimsuit form. I feel like I'm emerging from a cave when I go outside during the daytime and I'm not at a grocery store.

My BFF forever came out from Seattle just a week or two ago, and we were EVERYWHERE. We saw tons of mutual friends, drove all over creation, ate at all the restaurants you have to eat at when you're gone from the Midwest and Chicago, and shopped til we dropped. We watched DS9 all in the same room (my boyfriend, myself and my bff all watch ds9 on Thursdays as a way for me to keep in touch with her. It's awesome).  We went to the Field Museum, which I haven't done as a "civilian" for SUCH a long time, cruised Lake Shore Drive, and generally gawked. We hit Freeport for a weekend of games and movies and the "same old" that for our group of friends never gets old, we went to Portillo's and on a zany journey through Target with Trev and Sami, and we caught up with an original member of our "biotch squad," Cherie.

It was awesome, if exhausting, and I was *so* glad to touch back on those connections.

So why so blue now? I think part of it is the angst that is PMS, part of it is that feeling you get when you get a taste of something awesome (like having your BFF NOT be thousands of miles away all the time) but then it goes away because it's temporary. Probably one last part is that my schedule...our totally not a thing right now, and we really wanted it to be. I'd love to "get outside and enjoy the season" which I think is where my spring related ennui on the drive the other day is coming from, but I also want to do things like...get my shit together and get the house in order and get on schedule with writing. The list was short, then it was long, then it was longer.

April was a blur, between trips to MN for Easter and C2E2, and it all just rolled right into May with no sign of stopping. Now I'm just begging for some sort of routine to emerge again. As much as I worry about missing the thousands of things in bloom (achoo, by the way...) I also have a strong desire to cocoon myself in the bedroom with netflix and my blanky for awhile til things feel normal again. Which likely would only exacerbate things, but sounds absolutely like therapy.

I'm disjointed, and so is this, but I'm determined to try and do better.
I want to keep those connections to my friends more frequent, keep this house running more consistently, even in the face of weird schedules, and really go somewhere.
I can't word that into existence, though. I have to work it there.

It's time to work.